We often ask ourselves: “What do we believe?” The real question might be: “What do our unpeeled lives look like?”
The answer to the second question might be the truest test of our actual beliefs.
Do our private worlds hum with serenity, joy, and contentment? Are we filled with love for ourselves and others? Are we gentle people?
When I ask myself these questions and I look honestly into the details of my own affairs, I fail this test. He’s a quick report:
– I have many broken and unrepaired relationships.
– I have many resentments that I’ve been unsuccessful at relinquishing.
– I have habitual behaviors that are destructive to me and my family yet I haven’t adequately addressed them.
– I am often quick to anger and quick to defend myself.
The simple evidence of my private world proves to me that my beliefs are not getting me where I want to go. (I know without a doubt where I want to go: I want to go toward love and peace and patience and wisdom. I want to have the kind of gray hair-in a few years, that people can trust.) But the evidence shows me that I probably shouldn’t be leading any kind of visionary movement right now. I probably shouldn’t be imagining and creating a new paradigm of beliefs when my own beliefs haven’t gotten me out of bed.
Over the last few weeks a phrase has been jangling around in my head:
I don’t know exactly what that means, or even how it got up there in my skull, but I’ve been chewing on it for almost a month now and I still haven’t been able to swallow it.
I think it might have to do with examining my personal beliefs before foisting them upon the world. I think it might mean that I should spend my best energy trying to be sober minded, trying to be a worthy husband and a steady father rather than striving into the wee morning hours to be the next great white American genius.
And over the last few days two new words have added themselves to my growing mantra:
These two words are still foggy in my brain. But what is emerging- along with the horror that my aspirations might not materialize overnight- is the sense that I might have better outcomes if I tackle my life one bite sized day at a time.
I’ve always hated Day-At-A-Time slogans. They’re so matter of fact. So uninspired. I’ve always want to be at the pinnacle of my life yesterday. I was the kind of kid who imagined opening the door one morning and running 26 spontaneous, consecutive miles- faster than most, of course.
The call to live slow asks me to be OK that accomplishment does not appear immediately. It asks me to relinquish my hold on a fantasy reality: the one where I could lose 30 pounds in 30 days, could write a best seller on my first try, could inspire a worldwide movement at any moment.
Instead, it asks me to find joy in the easy, natural pace of life- the wisdom written in the eternal codes of growth and change.
I see it in my son, who at 3 months old cannot walk, or talk, or even crawl. Yet his daily struggle to focus his cute little eyes is so obviously perfect and timely and good. He already knows how to “Live small, live slow,” much better than I do. He’s teaching me to find joy in the quiet moments where it’s just the two of us on the couch, staring endlessly at the colorful patterns on his burp rags. We coo and giggle at each other and in those moments our eyes are reflecting secret messages back and forth and who cares who’s walking and who’s not.
“Live small, live slow.”
That’s what I need to remember today.
Maybe you’re like me? Maybe you want to be amazing. Maybe you want to learn something or do something or say something important. And maybe you want it to happen now. Maybe you see the years sliding month by accelerated month into oblivion and you’re getting anxious because nothing is changing- not even you. If that’s you, maybe you’re looking too far forward, like me. Maybe instead of flexing your wishing muscles for a great big immediate change you could join me in flexing your actual muscles for an itsy bitsy tiny change.
Today my change is this: I’ll be attending a 12 step meeting with my humility in tow, just like I did yesterday and the day before that.
When you’re ready, what change will you start with?